Goodbye, Washington State.

I’ve known for a while that leaving WA was the right decision for me personally.  My wife and I are both born and raised in the South, have no family here on the West Coast, and believe that sweet tea is a God-given right that should be served EVERYWHERE.  In all seriousness, we’re homesick.  We miss our families, our friends, and the culture that we know and love (not to mention the sun – 5 months of “grey” here in the Puget Sound region is AWFUL).

I don’t normally get political, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t more to our reason for leaving – and in particular, our haste in doing so.  Don’t worry, I’m not going partisan (though my experiences recently have likely changed my voting habits for the foreseeable future), but I can’t be honest in the details without placing responsibility where is belongs. 

This is no small change.

Moving cross-country is no small feat.  So many details have to work and be perfectly choreographed.  Moving our belongings, work transfers, utilities, living arrangements, transportation, cars, downsizing…and that’s just our personal lives.  We own an Indie Game Studio…when we leave, our business is coming with us, too.  Licenses, revenue accounts, registrations, retail partners…there’s a lot to do!

I mention this because a few of our WA friends think we’re overreacting / making a rash decision.  It’s more than that.  Let’s get into it…

Why we’re leaving WA:

1 – We miss home.

Washington State is beautiful.  The cooler weather suits me, and it’s a great breeding ground for tech startups.  But it isn’t home.  I can stand between our house and our neighbor’s, stretch my arms, and touch both houses without straining.  My “yard” can be mowed in 6 minutes, and consists of 2 8’x10′ squares of grass.  I can hear every argument, smell every meal…yet I know NONE of my neighbors (more on that in a sec).  Despite meeting some wonderful people here, we’ve never really felt like we fit in – we’re transplants from another world, and it’s becoming more obvious each day that we don’t belong.

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Ashley’s company flew her home last week to meet her new team and allow us to house hunt (extremely generous of them, and we’re eternally grateful).  I don’t think either of us realized just how much we missed home until we stepped out of the Atlanta airport.  The South has an identity and personality all it’s own – unique from anywhere I’ve ever been.  The way people talk to one another, the food, even the humidity in the air…the moment we stepped off the plane, we knew we were HOME.  It made us realize just how badly we wanted to be back there.

2 – This place is EXPENSIVE!

Every time you turn around, politicians and activists in WA have come up with another fee, tax, or rule that increases the cost of living (directly or indirectly).  Need a bag for those groceries?  That’ll be $0.35.  Your house is connected to the sewer?  $75 per month “sewer capacity charge.”  Rent rises here $200+ each year.  We were fortunate enough to find an amazing couple who only pass along additional taxes and fees (rather than gouge us like the rest of the market here).

The home we rent wat built in 2007 and sold for $160,000.  Our landlord bought it for $350,000 last year; it’s now worth $500,000.  It could rent for $3000 in the current market.  It’s a small “hallway house” – identical to all of the others in our neighborhood, built cheaply by a now defunct builder. 

We pay 3 different water bills: one to the local water authority (with a city “franchise fee” added), another to the city for storm drainage, and another to the County for sewage service.  There are additional taxes for everything imaginable – from police and fire protection to social causes.  If it makes the ballot, the people vote for it (and we pay it).

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This drives up the cost of everything.  A “value meal” from a fast food place here is $2 more than it is back home.  Gas?  DOUBLE what my Mom pays (thankfully, I drive an electric car, but fear not – they found a way to tax the crap out of that, too).  Own a car?  You’ll pay a “transit tax” to fund buses you can’t ride and train service that won’t start for 30 years.

3 – The “Seattle Freeze” is REAL.

I love our friends.  They’re nice people…the problem is, they’re the minority.  For most, there’s this sense of entitlement among folks here.  A lot of folks looking down their noses at others.  Odd, especially when you consider how diverse the population in Seattle is – and how “progressive” this place claims to be.

I can tell you the names of 2 of my neighbors.  In the 3+ years we’ve lived in this house, I’ve talked to 3 people on the street – most ignore a wave or greeting and walk right past.  This just isn’t how things are supposed to be.  You wave when you drive past someone; say “excuse me” before reaching over or entereing someone’s personal space; you hold doors for folks just to be kind; you say “please, thank you, yes / no Ma’am / Sir.”  I miss those random acts of kindness and mutual respect.

4 – Crime (and crowds) are up.

We have street racers and high speed chases nightly down our once peaceful street.  Gunshots ring out a few times a month, and we’ve had police and fire units deployed in our neighborhood 3 times in the past month.  Homeless encampments dot the highway, and there’s graffiti EVERYWHERE.  All of those “inner city problems” local politicians boast that we don’t have??  They’re here.

They keep building apartment complexes and cramped neighborhoods, but no parking or services to support the additional population.  A developer bulldozed 2 old houses on half acre lots down the road – and is replacing them with a cramped development of 19 homes.  Each home is finished in around a week – I can only imagine the quality construction taking place. 

4 – COVID-19 Madness

Now a bit of politics.  You have been warned!

We’re leaving WA because this place has lost its way.  I’ve worked in public education for 23 years – I loved my job.  5 years ago, things changed: we no longer serve the students and our communities.  Maybe I’ll write a blog post about this sometime.

Recently, our Governor (Jay Inslee) has joined several other hard-left politicians and begun taking advantage of public fear during the COVID-19 Pandemic, using “emergency powers” to increasingly infringe on liberties in the name of “public health.”  I met Inslee – even voted for him twice.  He was a nice guy with some big ideas on the environment and energy independence.

It started with school closures and lockdown that lasted MONTHS beyond what other states did.  The policy decimated local businesses and created a mental health crisis among our kids and teens.  2 years later, we’re still under a mask mandate, and schools are crippled by health procedures that hinder normal operations.

5 – Shortages of EVERYTHING…

This one is more widespread (though we saw almost NONE of it on our visit home).  Over-regulation is making it increasingly difficult to live and do business here. 

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Our county and city governments, not to be outdone by the Governor, have taken to Social Media championing their own mandates.  The County Executive, who normally spends his time deciding how to tax everyone in King County to fund projects in Seattle proper, just legalized segregation.  Only those willing to carry an approved health app or show a vaccination card may enter restaurants, theaters, arenas, and gyms. Refuse, and you’ll be forced to eat outside (or denied entry).

Don’t get me wrong – I think vaccines are awesome.  An old high school friend of mine worked on the Pfizer team.  We got ours as soon as we were eligible.

If you aren’t my doctor or a member of my family, you aren’t looking at my health information.  It’s none of your business.  PERIOD.  FULL STOP.  Once we normalize sharing this kind of information, it becomes routine for authorities (or even normal citizens) to request data sharing – and worse, normalizes the practice of denying service to anyone who doesn’t meet your criteria.   

Worse, as much as I hate to make it about race – for whatever reason, many minority communities seem to be shunning vaccines (and even less likely to use “official” apps).  We’re going to force these folks to eat outside, while the white folks are inside and comfy?  I’m simply not comfortable with the resulting segregation this is going to cause.

My heart goes out to the business owners who are yet again victims of the political games our leaders play these days.  Shame on leaders who expect minimum wage workers to play “enforcer.”  Businesses can barely find enough staff to stay open, and you gave them another reason to hate going to work.

So we’re leaving – no tax revenue for you!

At the risk of sounding petty, I hope my game studio hits it big one day.  I hope more businesses follow suit, and I hope the public wakes up before such a beautiful part of the country turns into an urban wasteland.

We just can’t rationalize staying here anymore.  So goodbye, Washington State – we’re leaving, and we’re taking our little family game studio with us.

We’re moving to a safer state with more reasonable policies and tax rates.